Help, my $1,000 Marriott gift card is invalid!

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By Christopher Elliott

Louise Panicali’s husband receives a $1,000 Marriott gift card for doing a good deed. But the card doesn’t work. Will Marriott do a good deed by fixing the problem?

Question

My husband received a $1,000 Marriott gift card as a “thank you” for remodeling a bathroom for a needy family. 

We tried to use the card a few months later at a Westin property in Boston. But when we gave a representative the gift card number, he said someone had already used it at a J.W. Marriott in Orlando. 

I immediately contacted the Marriott gift card department to report the problem. Since then, I have made numerous attempts to contact Marriott via email and phone with no resolution. Marriott won’t replace the gift card. 

Can you help me get my husband’s gift card back? — Louise Panicali, Guilford, Conn.

Answer

That was a nice thing for your husband to do — and the gift card was an appropriate gesture of gratitude. 

When a gift card doesn’t work, you need to talk to the person who gave you the card. You mention that the person paid $1,000 for the gift card without offering any details. But a receipt would have helped resolve this. 

Instead, it looks like you leaned on Marriott to fix the problem. That’s fine — after all, it’s Marriott’s name on the card — but I don’t think the company is entirely responsible for this worthless gift card. Here’s another missing piece of information: When was the card redeemed in Orlando? Was it before you received the gift card or afterward? If it was afterward, then someone stole the card number. (Related: I only stayed at the Marriott one night before my cruise!)

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This is one of the many problems I have with gift cards. Companies treat these financial instruments like cash, but they are not cash. In most cases you can only use them at one company, and according to people in the industry, many — if not most — gift cards are never redeemed. 

It looks like you spent several months going back and forth with Marriott’s card department. You might have tried escalating it to one of the Marriott customer service executives I list on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

My advocacy team and I contacted Marriott on your behalf. Instead of replacing the card, it gave you 100,000 Bonvoy points, which are worth about $980. “The matter has been resolved,” you told me.

I would use the points before someone else does.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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